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Much of new year lost to political strife in B'desh

Publication Date : 18-03-2013

 

Wednesday might be the only workday in Bangladesh this week as a 36-hour hartal called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami party-led alliance begins today, with the main opposition party threatening to call another dawn-to-dusk shutdown on Thursday.

BNP’s Dhaka district unit has threatened to enforce Thursday’s hartal (strike) if detained opposition leaders are not released by Wednesday night.

This will further impede public life and businesses that have already been hit hard by recurrent hartals this entire month.

With the fresh two-day shutdown, the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance will have enforced 13 days of shutdowns since January 31. Of them, five were called in the first fortnight of this month.

And more seems to be on the way, if threats by the opposition alliance are anything to go by, which promise retaliation if the government creates “any obstacles” to opposition programmes.

Daylong shutdowns, most called the BNP-led alliance, has been enforced across the country for 16 days from December last year.

Bangladesh, a nation that has a US$110 billion economy counts US$200 million in lost business every day there is a fresh shutdown, according to a rough estimate by the International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh.

Another estimate by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) earlier showed that the average cost of hartals for the country amounts to between 3-4 per cent of the GDP.

Mili Rahman, a small entrepreneur who owns fashion brand Chorka, said their sales are disrupted for two days if shutdown is called for a single day.

“The day before any hartal, people are too scared to go out even if the shops are open. On the hartal day, everything comes to a halt,” she told The Daily Star.

She added, “Although the businesses are kept open in the evening after the hartal hours, the presence of customers remains very thin.”

Mili, who owns three shops in Dhaka, fears there will be no business this week due to the shutdown called by the main opposition BNP for today and tomorrow.

Rokshana Yesmin, mother of Ashna Fabiyana, a class-I student of Saint Francis Xavier’s Girls High School, said that hartals throw academic routines out of sync, and pile homework pressure on kids. “Parents also have to sacrifice their holidays as school authorities keep schools open on holidays.”

 

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